Kerry v Mayo: The in-depth stats that Fitzmaurice and Rochford will look at

Brendan Harrison of Mayo versus Kerry


You can’t argue with statistics, you simply have to find meaning in them. They’re there to allow you to move on from the past and learn for the future.

For Stephen Rochford and Eamonn Fitzmaurice, that’s what this week has been about. Who will learn more ahead of Saturday’s replay?

The headline statistics, as you can see from Table 1, are startling. Mayo completed almost twice as many tackles as the opposition. In fact, in the second half alone, the Connacht side had almost as many (50) as Kerry did across the 70-plus minutes (51), and yet the game ended even.

Tackling is the measuring stick by which most top teams evaluate their performances. In rugby, the importance of workrate in allowing your players to show their skills is summed up thusly: you have to earn the right to go wide.

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While the tackling stats show us that Mayo worked much harder to win the ball back than Kerry, they still only won three turnovers more (21 v 18). Perhaps there is a gulf in footballing skills between the sides that has to be bridged through work-rate, which we’ll come back to.

Certainly, there is no gulf in the shooting efficiency, or at least not last Sunday. Both sides managed 32 shots, which might surprise some people, but a scoreline of 2-14 apiece also informs us of identical 50% scoring returns.

One area where there was a dramatic differential was the number of scored frees: Kerry scored six points from placed balls whereas Mayo only scored one (although Cillian O’Connor missed two more frees and a '45). That was one advantage enjoyed by the Kingdom but so too was the kickouts: a 79% retention rate to 64%.

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Inter-county teams put a serious emphasis on taking as many of their shots as possible from inside the scoring zone. Within that, you also want to get the right men pulling the trigger. The red semi-circles on Tables 2 and 3 (Mayo and Kerry shots) show us how often the teams managed to fire at the posts in the right situations.

Mayo’s 39% return on their own shots in the first half was the key reason they didn’t go in ahead at the interval. Shot selection was a major contributing factor: 7/18 shots were outside the scoring zone, of which they scored just 0-1.

This was surprising considering the vast areas of space in the sweeper-less Kerry defence.

Mayo addressed this after the interval and had a 100% return on their shots until Cillian O’Connor missed a ‘45 and then, in the last 15 minutes, they kicked four shots outside the scoring zone — returning just a single point. That was the equaliser from Paddy Durcan, who rectified his earlier miss from inside the scoring zone.

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Kerry will be very disappointed with a return of 50% from their shots (56% in the first half dropping to 44% thereafter). Again, most of their missed efforts came from outside the scoring zone; of the 13 shots they took outside the red semi-circle, they scored just 0-3. The weather, of course, made these shots more difficult than normal and would have had a large bearing on the low return of these shots for both teams.

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Back with the work-rate, 92 tackles would be seen as a very honest hard-working performance from Mayo and was almost double that of Kerry’s 51. However, the green and red only turned the ball over in open play 21 times, compared with the Kingdom’s 18 — meaning Kerry were far more efficient with their tackling (a ratio of 4.4 tackles per turnover v 2.8).

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You can also see from Table 4 and 5 the difference in terms of where the tackles were going in. Perhaps it was a tactic of dropping off and inviting Mayo on, but the Kerry attack rarely laid a glove on the opposition.

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When it comes to turnovers, both teams managed just a single one in Zone 3 — which is the attacking third of the field. It pays to be secure in possession in your own defence because negative turnovers can very quickly end up as white or green flags.

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In-play turnovers can have a huge bearing on the game but so too can kickouts. We saw last year how Kerry managed to push up on Stephen Cluxton at the right time, leading to some poor restarts that quickly led to score concessions. Last Sunday, David Clarke’s first-half kicking performance was disastrous, and was one of the key reasons why Kerry stayed in the game: 6/13 (46%) just isn’t good enough at this level.

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This was obviously addressed at half-time by Rochford’s management team and, as a result, Clarke dramatically shortened the distance and reduced the amount of time it took him to take the kick out. So much so that the RTE cameras missed most of them because of replays. It was a successful tactic leading to an 83% (10/12) return on his kick outs for the second half.

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Kerry had a 67% (8/12) return on their own kick outs in the first half and, similar to Mayo, must have addressed this at half-time. The Kingdom recycled the ball notably quicker in the second half and, as a result, increased the return on restarts to 92% (11/12).

So when it comes down to the heel of the hunt, Mayo and Kerry need to look at where they came up short and devise solutions. That’s what will decide the replay.

Other Points:

Was putting Aidan O’Shea on Kieran Donaghy a success?

  • Of the 15 balls played to Donaghy, O’Shea won two of them.
  • Donaghy assisted in both goals for Kerry and also in Jack Barry’s near miss for goal.
  • He also took three shots himself and scored a point.
  • O’Sheas influence out the field was negated and he only had three possessions in the first half and nine in the second half; all inside his own 45m line.
  • Just two of Donaghy's 13 possessions did not end up in either a score or a scoring attempt.

Was taking Colm Boyle off a mistake?

  • Stephen O’Brien had five possessions in the first half and scored a goal.
  • Colm Boyle had ten possessions in the first half, scored a goal, had an assist, and two more shots which went wide.
  • In the second half, Boyle had two possessions and O’Brien had one, which was an assist.


  • Kerry brought on six subs, evenly spread out throughout the game.
  • Mayo brought on four subs. The last two were in the 67th (David Drake) and 73rd minutes (Conor Loftus).